If you want to read our trip in order, scroll down the page.
Sunday started of clear and cool, as promised. Yay! for an accurate forecast.
It was Taaryn's birthday, and though we had a party planned for the 24th, we wanted to recognize her in some way on her "actual birthday." We had PopTarts with our breakfast cereal. :-) I had also brought two gifts with us, unbeknownst to her, that I was able to surprise her with when she came into our room after her morning shower. She got two Lois Lenski books and a pair of snow boots. (I'm told the boots look like Uggs, but I couldn't verify that. They are fuzzy on the inside, cost less than $20, and arrived in time for her birthday; that's all that counts.)
After breakfast we loaded up and headed to Oxford. I'd done my homework, so I knew that only 2 of the 5 (or 6) park and rides allowed tall vehicles, and we went to one of those. There was a height barrier, but Bob pulled to the side and I went inside to talk to staff. I expected him to come out and unlock the barrier, but instead he instructed us to go back to the road, turn at the first set of lights, and turn again to some in the secret hidden entrance by the exit. It also had a height barrier, labeled the same height as the front gate, but was obviously much higher, though quite narrow. We scraped through and parked right in front of the building/bus stop.
It was inevitable, I suppose, for us to compare Oxford and Cambridge. I'm told some old guidebooks suggested their readers go to Cambridge first, and then Oxford, to avoid disappointment, as Oxford is so much prettier. hmph. It started right away, as we usually park and ride into Cambridge. Cambs P&R is pretty straightforward. There is one bus from each parking lot, and it goes a circuit to downtown and back to the parking lot. Oxford's P&R is more like a regular bus station, with a dozen buses stopping there, each one going to a different place, and no way for the uninitiated to tell which is which. The first bus up already had a stroller on board, so we decided to wait for the next bus rather than unload and fold up the stroller. The next bus wasn't going where we wanted to go, nor was the one after. But we eventually got on, and even departed the bus near the city center. I had a map of downtown, which is a good thing, because the P&R didn't offer one (unlike Cambs), and it had all the streets in the right place. But it didn't have all the buildings in the right place. :-( We picked up a bus schedule from the P&R, but it didn't have a blowup of downtown. I'd seen one online, that showed where to get on and off each bus, and lamented the fact that there wasn't a print version of that at the bus stop.
So, we knew where we were when we got off the bus, but couldn't find the Carfax tower, which was something Taryn wanted to do. As it is supposed to be the center of town, the place from which tourists orient themselves, and tall enough to offer a view of the whole city, it was a bit odd that we couldn't find it. We ended up down some alley-type street, where all the buildings were boarded up. But somehow that led us back to civilization and we sort of accidentally bumped into the Carfax, after stopping in a lovely bookstore where every book was 2GBP. I wasn't planning to climb the 99 steps to the top, but the boys wanted to go with Bob and Taryn, but weren't allowed (age 7 and up). So they stayed down with me and read their new books.
When we left the tower, we found we were just around the corner from a McDonald's. Yeah, not very hip to go to American restaurants all the time, but after the "hamburgers" of Saturday we wanted something dependable. We had to wait for a table, but were then able to crunch into a round table meant for 4 or 5. Eight combo meals later, we were back on the street.
We also never saw the big bookstore, but we did bump into the back of the one library I'd read about. The big "silence please" sign in the doorway was enough for me to not trust their internet statement about children being welcomed, and I watched them run laps around the "camera" while Bob went in the library and took pictures. We almost had our bearings by this time, and I was delighted to see some of the "dreaming spires" I'd heard so much about (and was very disappointed in the lack of, when I visited Oxford with my parents in '95).
We walked through the covered market, which is now (partially) open on Sundays, and then to Christ Church college/cathedral/parish church. There actually was a line there (can't imagine visiting in the 'high' season), and an employee walked down the line, asking if anyone had some card (trying to expedite). I asked how many were on the family ticket, so I could have the money ready, and he said 2 adults, 2 children. SO I asked what age children, and he said up to 17 (when I was wanting to know how many extra I'd have to pay for). So then he actually looked at us, said the limits were designed to keep people from coming in with aunts and uncles and cousins all on one ticket, and we could go on a family ticket. He then proceeded to usher me and the children ahead of the line, helped carry the stroller up the stairs, and made sure we had a guidebook, while Bob stood in line to pay. Made my day.
The church was nice, but not as spectacular as I'd expected. Anyway, I got to sit and rest, I mean feed Elijah and change diapers, while Bob and the older children walked around and took pictures. We wanted to buy something in the gift shop, but just couldn't find anything that was worth the price. Some pretty little olivewood nativities for 20GBP and up, a mediocre guide book... we left it there. Getting tired now, we trudged toward our imaginary bus stop. Well, Bob found where we'd got off the bus, and upon asking the bus driver we found out that we could get on the bus on the other side of the street. Once again we lamented the P&R not providing maps of any kind. ANyway, we made it. The P&R office was closed, so we couldn't use their toilets.
We decided to just go 'home' and have sandwiches for dinner, but when Bob pulled in to a 'services' to use the toilet, we changed our minds and opted for Little Chef. Riah cried when he saw his hamburger (still not sure why), William wouldn't eat his (I tried a bite and thought it was good), Bob's food wasn't enough... But it was a break, and the children's meals come with ice cream. :-)
I think that's about it for Sunday.